Monday, February 1, 2010

Thoughts on SC-03

South Carolina's third Congressional district is one of the few in 2010 where the Republican candidate is not running for reelection. Congressman Barrett is currently a candidate for Governor of South Carolina. This creates an open seat and already it's turning into an interesting primary. Current candidates include a local attorney Neal Collins, a Pastor Richard Cash, Ron Paul activist and local physician Mike Vasovski, and three State legislators - State Representative Rex Rice, State Representative Jeff Duncan, and State Senator Shane Massey. The incumbent has won in the past with over 60% of the popular vote, so a good look at the Republican primary because that winner will most likely become the next Congressman from that district.

First, let us look at the State Legislators. For the Legislators, one can look right to their records and their historic approval rating from outside organizations such as the Club for Growth, to determine their conservative credentials. Here are the approval / interest group ratings for Rice, Massey, and Duncan. The first thing I notice is that all three men are grade A NRA supporters. Also, Rice has a much larger record than the other two legislative candidates and, in 2006-2007, shifted sharply left on fiscal issue garnering below a 50% rating from the Club for Growth in 2007 and a 55% in the 2008 legislative session. On the other hand, Duncan started at the 75% in 2005 and has since had a rating of over 90% from the Club for Growth. Massey has an approval rating of above 90% as well, but a much shorter record to look at. In 2008, Massey and Rice both dropped below 70% support for "South Carolina Business and Industry Political Education Committee," a SC specific "pro-business growth" PAC. Duncan remained above 70%. From these records alone, Duncan has the better record on fiscal issues. Rice and Massey have decent record - but Rice is more spotty and Massey's is less complete, having only been elected in 2006.

To determine the benefit of the other three candidates - we need to review their platform and take them at their word. Collins specifically calls out spending federal funds on high-speed rail through SC-03 (pork) and increased spending on higher education by the federal government. Both of these platform items are not consistent with a fiscally conservative platform.

Vasovski has a very vague platform which mostly states, "I support small government." He also states that he supports a non-intervention platform in his essay on the topic. He specifically states that this is not the same as isolation - which is good to mark that distinction. He's also apparently been a candidate since 2008 for this office. Before I can make a serious analysis of the candidate - I would need to know more.

The final non-legislator candidate is Pastor Richard Cash. As expected, Cash spends a great deal of time discussing faith and God. He actually has an entire bullet point in his platform entitled "God." He makes very clear his views on the issues - including support of laws which would prohibit pre-marital sex and homosexuality, and supporting Congressional intervention in the Supreme Court to pre-decide if cases are eligible for judicial review. I oppose those entire platform points - the federal government especially has no place in trying to police people's personal lives and his idea on Congress goes against the entire spirit of separation of powers.

Based on this quick analysis of their platforms - none of the non-legislative candidates are truly all around conservatives. Based on their fundraising potential - none of the three of them are viable candidates. Of the Legislative candidates - Massey has the most money on-hand, but as you will notice over 50% of that is a loan from himself. Rice and Duncan have comparable amounts of money remaining on-hand.Both received around the same amount of PAC money. The difference? Duncan's other donations have been primarily organic with a $10,000 loan to himself and nearly $100,000 of individual contributions. Rice loaned himself over $50,000 to his campaign. Sure, he's raised more money - but only about 20% more than Duncan thus far.

Back to platform review for our legislative candidates. Rice mentions that he's a gun rights supporter, pointing to his A rating from the NRA. Rice supports the Fair Tax - i.e. a federal sales tax combined with a "prebate" given to everyone at the beginning of the year. I, personally, oppose this venture - once people find out that the government can pay them money, they'll actively try to vote themselves more money.

Massey and Duncan have similar platforms on fiscal issues. Both support tax reductions, both are "Taxpayer Heroes" from the South Carolina Club for Growth. What's interesting is the entire lack of discussion of social issues in Massey's platform. Massey does not mention gun rights, he does not mention abortion, and he does not mention immigration. While his platform is complete on most fiscal issue - many of the issues that matter to all around conservatives appear to be ignored. Duncan's platform discusses that he's pro-life, support of private parternships on energy independence, support of second amendment rights, and support of the State's rights to enforce their own immigration laws.

Now, I'll be honest - I don't live in South Carolina and am not fully familiar with the district, but based on how these candidates look on paper alone - Duncan appears to be the most capable and qualified with a solid platform. Anyone who knows more and has additional insight would be greatly appreciated. This six way primary is an interesting one to watch.

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